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Food For Your Soul

John Nartker, artist

Nartker
"Mary" by John Nartker

John Nartker (1930-1998) was a vastly prolific and innovative artist and art educator with great breadth of professional involvement and fine art production. He worked primarily in painting, printmaking and ceramics.

Born in the small town of Kalida, Ohio (Putnam County), John began to realize his interest in art as a teen. Following high school, he briefly attended the Dayton Art Institute before enlisting in the Air Force. He served in the Korean Conflict and was then stationed in Japan, an experience that profoundly impacted his development as an artist. Here he studied painting, pottery, photography, gold and silver iron inlay techniques as well as wood carving and traditional (Japanese) pottery. A member of the Byatsubouka Kyokui Modern Art Group, he also studied at the University of Ikebukuro as a member of the Chu Ta Association of the Arts. He became fluent in Japanese during those years, as well.

Nartker
"Francis of Assisi" by John Nartker

Following his discharge from the Air Force, the artist returned to Ohio to attend the University of Dayton, receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts. He earned a Master of Fine Arts from Cranbrook Academy in Bloomfield Hills, Mich. During these years he taught local art classes, painted, and exhibited in a number of art fairs.

Nartker began teaching at the College of Mount St. Joseph in the early 1960s and remained on the art faculty for 30 years, eight of which he served as chair of the art department. In his early years at the College, the new campus was under construction and would include a substantial art building with a large gallery. He had the vision of promoting the growth of the gallery and department by formulating the “Friends of Studio San Giuseppe.” He also established both the printmaking and ceramics departments at the College.

During his lengthy career at the College, Nartker continued to be prolific in his own artistic production, and participated in more than 200 exhibitions. He won top awards in painting, printmaking and ceramics at the Ohio State Fair. His works are in many major collections, including a painting at the Air Force Academy.

John Nartker’s unique style balances the subtle and vibrant with an emphasis on design. Besides nature, he explored iconic images from history and mythology. He was perhaps most proud of the role he played in the education of others and the development of the art department at the College of Mount St. Joseph. Sharon Kesterston Bollen, one of his students and later a professor of art at the College, remarked: “He was a master of color, daring with hues and sensitive to their nuances. John made art accessible and influenced how I view the beauty in others’ artwork. His warmth and superb talent as both an artist and an art professor inspired my creating and teaching.”

Other works by John Nartker may be viewed in the first floor hallway of the Motherhouse near the clinic and at the far east end of Cedars Auditorium.